Though other celebrated examples certainly exist, for many years it seemed as if the best-known rock options flip-flopped between cushy pop-rock, mild punk, and a handful of accomplished bands that only succeeded in pulling in the majority suburban white audiences.
But this is all starting to change. In recent years several young bands consisting entirely of black members have been working hard to bring their unique blends of traditionally white-dominated genres to young, enthusiastic audiences across South Africa – from townships to the suburbs.
Soweto in particular appears to be a hotbed for this movement. A recent documentary by Johannesburg-based writer and filmmaker Wim Steytler, who worked on a documentary about Afrikaans rock group Fokofpolisiekar, threw several of these musicians into the spotlight.
Given South Africa’s political history, almost all of the mainstream and commercial music scene was dominated by white English and Afrikaans musicians until early 1994. For many years following the advent of democracy commercial stations were divided along genre, and thus race, lines. But now, many are crediting local black punk and black metal with bridging the divide.
Bands like Demogoroth Satanum, Reeburth, and TCIYF are shaking off the historical and political legacies of the country and focusing on what they do best — playing music that they know and love, for a growing number of adoring fans, across all race lines.
TCIYF, short for the very NSFW name “The Cum In Your Face”, is one of the younger black punk bands making waves across the country. They’ve played some of South Africa’s biggest music festivals, and have their sights set on overseas tours in the near future. We spoke to the oldest member of the band, Thula, about the music they’re making and their thoughts on the media attention they’ve managed to attract in recent years.
1. Can you describe your band? What music do you make?
Thrash punk from Soweto. Soundtrack of a life in the hood, on a skateboard.
2. How did you get into making this genre of music?
We were skating together, we love punk and thrash.
3. Do you have an objective or greater aim with your music?
Not really, we are just going with the flow.
4. How does your style of music fit in with your friends and surrounding community? Are people into what you’re doing?
Yeah totally. The kids dig this shit. Our family wants us to be responsible and get real jobs, but that will never happen. Other than that, everyone around us is super proud of us right now.
5. Does race and racial politics influence your music?
No, there’s none of that. It’s 2017 man. Race doesn’t influence our music in anyway, it doesn’t matter to us. There are so many mixed bands right now. The scene is fresh and we dig it. There are shows in the hood and the burbs. The kids are waking up.
6. Do you see a future for black black metal in South Africa, or abroad? What’s the next step for you guys?
We were actually booked for Afropunk ATL and Afropunk NY this year, but our visas got declined. So yeah the future looks good. We just need a booking agent that’s all. Then it’s the world.
7. Who comes to your gigs and what kind of venues do you usually play?
We play all types of venues, from big stages like Oppi (Oppikoppi), to taverns and houses in the hood, pubs and bars in the burbs, a few city shows… we will play anywhere.
8. Do you ever get tired of the press attention based solely around the idea that you’re black musicians playing a traditionally white genre? Do you think this minimises the work that you do, at the expense of treating you like genuine, hard working musicians? Or is it a good way to generate publicity and spread your message?
It doesn’t happen as often as you would think… our will is strong. We don’t mind at all.